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Alterra brewing up plans for second Tosa cafe

Java joint eyes 68th and Wells

Oct. 12, 2011

An Alterra Café could soon perk up the corner of 68th and Wells streets.

A blighted building sits vacant there, and a developers' proposal to tear it down and replace it with Wauwatosa's second Alterra Café has won the support of both the Plan Commission and Community Development Committee. The coffeehouse's preliminary plans call for a 3,200-square-foot building with an outdoor courtyard.

"Alterra will own it and they will be the only tenant in this building," developer Sean Phelan said.

The Common Council will take action on the matter Tuesday and, if approved, Phelan will get to work finalizing plans.

That lot has been a problem for the city in the past.

A year ago developer William Ibach got the go-ahead to construct an eight-unit townhome on that corner. Neighbors protested, saying it was too massive and dense for their quaint area.

The idea of an Alterra Cafe seems to be sitting a little better with at least some neighbors.

"I got butterflies in my stomach," said Dawn Marie Metz, who owns neighboring Samson & Delilah salon and lives around the corner.

She was opposed to the Townhouses at Hyde Park and sees a cafe as a much better fit for the neighborhood.

"This would be a gathering place for southeast Tosa," she said.

Traffic, competition concerns

Neighbor Fred Haase complimented the aesthetics of the plan - but said he was worried the cafe would bring more traffic to the neighborhood and cause parking problems.

"Right now the streets are filled with customers from Balistreri's," he said.

Under current plans, Alterra would have a19-stall parking lot in addition to on-street parking. The cafe would offer a bike rack to promote biking and walking there, Phelan said.

In addition, Haase likened the coffee business to Walmart, worrying it would drive bakeries and cafes like La Tarte and Simma's out of business.

Competition can feed businesses by bringing more people to the area - it's being seen in the Village, Mayor Jill Didier countered.

Plan Commissioner Jody Lowe agreed, saying she thinks of Alterra as a lunch locale because of its sandwiches and burritos.

"It's a smart development for this spot," she said.

Alterra's first Wauwatosa location, at Swan Boulevard and North Avenue, has been quite well patronized, and Phelan hopes that success will be duplicated.

Design has purpose

Lincoln Fowler, one of the owners of Alterra Coffee Roasters, said they tried to pull the best design aspects from the company's other shops. For instance, large overhead doors might be used to create an enclosed space that still has the feel of outdoor seating.

The building's design will work as a transition point between the residential and commercial parts of the neighborhood, he said.

The proposed building is one story and has masonry and brick materials on the north side and wood and glass on the south exterior, Phelan said.

Next step

WHAT: The Common Council will vote on preliminary plans for an Alterra Café at 68th and Wells streets

WHERE: City Hall, 7725 W. North Ave.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

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